Bloomington, IL,
14:28 PM

Building a Better Neighborhood

Shared tools make for a stronger, safer and more stable community

Tahnee and Matt Lathrop’s business was growing. They needed more space and wanted a location that reflected the vibe of their vintage and unique goods store, Retrofit Culture. The historically significant, brick warehouse in West Bloomington was their undeniable first choice. However, the building was rundown and sorely in need of renovation.

Tahnee saw a bright future in restoring the building to its former glory. However, it was also a huge project and they had a limited budget.

The Lathrops turned to The Tool Library for help. The local organization provides a variety of tools at no cost to its users. By borrowing equipment from the library, the couple was able to tear down old plastered walls and strip away chipped paint. Underneath, they discovered beautiful tin ceilings and historic fixtures. They saved thousands of dollars, stayed within their budget, and Retrofit Culture had found its home.

The couple and their business just completed a year in their new home. They have received praise from the city and others for investing in the West Bloomington community – an area in need of economic revitalization. Neighbors appreciate the couple’s pride in their business and faith in the neighborhood. As Tahnee and Matt continue to renovate the rest of the building, they know none of it would have been possible without the Tool Library.

The Tool Library has become a vital resource for Bloomington-Normal residents looking to help improve their properties and community. Thousands have used the program to borrow tools of all kinds. From hammers and chainsaws to lawn mowers and sewing machines, the Tool Library enables home renovations and projects that wouldn’t have been possible for those unable to afford the necessary tools.

With the help of a $25,000 Neighborhood Assist® grant in 2013, the program expanded at a rapid rate – increasing membership by 900 percent in less than three years. It has been able to buy hundreds of new tools and provide more than 6,000 tool loans to members in the community.

The Tool Library continues to empower the West Bloomington community. It not only provides tools and training, but has also identified and solved community issues. Recently, The Tool Library found a hidden community need – many children in the area lacked a proper bed. In a single day, the organization brought together hundreds of volunteers and the kids themselves to build new beds. They used the tools, their hands and skills to build real change.

The Tool Library is a place for neighbors in the West Bloomington community to gather and create something beautiful for their neighborhood. Help make a similar impact in other communities. See the 200 finalist Neighborhood Assist causes and vote for your favorite(s) at

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